Fr. Rogério Gomes: Celebrating these 290 years means remembering, in the most profound sense, our memories of redemption that originate in a God who becomes incarnate, becomes kenosis, and entrusts Himself to people and their weaknesses to accomplish His work in the course of history.
On the 290th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, on 9 November, the Redemptorist community of the General House and St Alphonsus House celebrated the Eucharist presided over by Father Rogerio Gomes, Superior General of the Congregation. The liturgy was attended by guests in Rome that day – Cardinal Joseph Tobin, CSsR, and three confreres from Ukraine concelebrated the mass, and three Redemptorist Sisters from Burkina Faso were also present.
We publish below the text of the homily delivered by the Superior General.
Homily on the occasion of the Foundation Anniversary of the Congregation
- On the day we celebrate the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of the Holy Saviour, the first church ever to be publicly consecrated, the “mother church of all the churches of the City and the Orbe”, we Redemptorists celebrate the 290th anniversary of the foundation of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, our great basilica.
- The origin of this missionary work, which we celebrate, was officially born in the freshness of the morning and continues to this day being found in the Spirit: the Spirit upon Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth, which made Alfonso realise the Congregation, the same Spirit present in that improvised cenacle where Alfonso de Liguori, Pedro Romano, Juan Bautista Di Donato, Vicente Mannarini and Silvestre Tósquez were gathered to sing the Mass of the Holy Spirit celebrated by Monsignor Falcoia and a Te Deum of thanksgiving to the Lord who had sent those apostles to proclaim the Gospel to the most abandoned. As every work of God is purified and tested like gold in the crucible, the enthusiasm of some persons faded, and only Alfonso and Brother Vito Curzio remained.
- Alfonso had every chance of being an utterly frustrated man because the work he had started had apparently failed. Nevertheless, Alfonso did not give up. He overcame the great crises of his time, the conflicts between the Church and the Kingdom of Naples, the theological currents that placed God far away from human beings and the division of the Congregation. Alphonsus experienced and lived through the crisis himself. Nevertheless, he remained faithful until his last days because his dear God sustained him, and deep in his heart, the Spirit confirmed to him that the Congregation was God’s work.
- Celebrating these 290 years means remembering, in the most profound sense, our memories of redemption that originate in a God who becomes incarnate, becomes kenosis, and entrusts Himself to people and their weaknesses to accomplish His work in the course of history. What are the memories of redemption that each of us celebrates today? Or are these already blurred and dusty in such a way that we do not know them in our being as Redemptorists? The Redemptorist who loses the memory of redemption forgets the face of the Redeemer and is not able to actualise the charism in the history of today, to read the signs of the times and to listen to the clamour of the abandoned present in the geographical and existential peripheries of this time and slowly he loses his sense of belonging to the Congregation.
- The memories of redemption remind us that there is always a faithful God who does not reject us despite our weaknesses, even when we cannot live the fullness of our vows. He does not abandon us, for he has not made a covenant with a law, but with a person with his profound mystery, beauty and contradictions. These memories nourished Alphonsus and did not make him give up on his project, despite the significant challenges and abandonment he experienced.
- The Congregation currently has 4632 brethren: 56 bishops, 3501 priests, 9 permanent deacons, 79 transitional deacons, 660 non-ordained clerics and 327 brothers. These men have consecrated their lives and are present in 85 countries proclaiming redemption in various ways. Others live the dies impendere pro redemptis, after much missionary work, experiencing the cross of illness. Thus the Congregation is alive. There is a beating heart and much Redemptorist blood running through the veins of the Congregation. We must not be discouraged when faced with such a complex world for the proclamation of the Gospel, when the number of vocations and professed members dwindles and so many leave. Starting with Alphonsus, our saints, blessed, martyrs and venerable ones, and so many confreres who have gone before us teach us endurance, resilience and perseverance in facing challenges. If we are here, it is thanks to so many confreres who experienced detachment and sowed the seed of the Congregation in different parts of the world. To them, our grateful remembrance of redemption!
- We are not the masters of the Congregation. It belongs to the Spirit who blows where he wills. The various reorganisations and restructurings that the Congregation has undergone over these 290 years make us realise that the Congregation follows its own course, regardless of our will and resistance. The Divine Ruah can enter through the cracks in our being and, little by little, give us another glimpse of the history we are co-responsibly building. The process of restructuring and reconfiguration that the Congregation is undergoing is a reading of the signs of the times, aroused over these 30 years by the Spirit in our General Chapters and Assemblies. And if there is continuity, it is because this Spirit wants something from us. To close ourselves to Him is to let the Congregation lose its strength and slowly die. The practice of Alfonsian detachment will renew our spirit and the Congregation.
- Thanks to all of you of this St Alphonsus Community who are here to carry out a missionary service and to build the history of our Institute. Let us go forward in this mission; let us go forward without fear and give the best of ourselves, following the example of those who have preceded us in their profound dedication to the Redeemer through their consecration. Today it is our turn to continue this beautiful missionary work intuited by Alphonsus, which, being the work of the Spirit, has come this far and will continue until the day he celebrates his eschatology in the Lord.
- The Congregation was founded with the presence of Mary, who always helps and accompanies us. She is our Mother General who caresses us, accompanies us to the cross and inspires us in our perseverance! Best wishes to us all, and may the Lord grant us another 290 years so that we may be Missionaries of Hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer. Amen!
P. Rogério Gomes, SG/C. Ss.R
Rome, 09 November 2022